It’s the final countdown. Do do doot do, do do doot doo doo. Lorena, Kerry, and Chris are still standing. I have no idea how the final finals will work, as they seem to change it every season (two finalists! three finalists! one finalist and a goat!), so who knows what will happen at the end of this episode.
The Quickfire is to test the chefs’ communication skills. There is a confessional-like whisper wall set up at each workstation which the chefs must communicate through to their unnamed partners. Each chef must dictate to their “mystery teammate” and instruct them on how to make a dish identical to their own. I think I speak for everyone when I say this is a really, really complicated set-up for what will likely be a not-that-entertaining payoff. The mystery teammates are (no surprise) our critics -
The critics are doing some really horrible accents to throw off the chefs. Ruth’s is like some kind of eastern European mish mash, James is trying to sound like Art Smith, and Francis is speaking in only one-syllable words and going slightly Creole? It’s ridiculously stupid and painful to watch.
After their 20 minutes of cooking and yelling is up, three solemn but surprisingly muscular PA’s pull the walls back to reveal the partners. The chefs are of course just tickled pink they were cooking with their own critics. Hugs galore.
Chris and James’ shrimp dishes look very similar - even down to the plating. Curtis tastes each and says “I actually can’t decide which I like more!” to which James responds, “Oh, just shut the f--- up.” Sassy Molassy! Lorena and Francis didn’t get their pasta cooked in time so they present a saute of swiss chard with chicken and stuff on top. Curtis likes the sauce but wants something to put it on. Kerry and Ruth created a sauteed chicken dish with bacon, rosemary and swiss chard cream. Their plating is quite different — Ruth used half a chicken while Kerry’s is just small pieces. Hilariously Curtis likes Ruth’s dish better.
Curtis judges based on the similarity of the dishes between partners and overall taste. The winning pair is Chris and James’ shrimp (or “prawns” if you’re gonna be all Australian about it). Chris takes home another $5K for the
Elimination Challenge: Curtis explains that to battle its failing schools, Las Vegas’ Southwest Career and Technical Academy has created a culinary curriculum. Each chef will be paired with two of the Academy's culinary students to create a dish. These are high school kids.
The catch? The chefs don’t know what they will be preparing - they must use the students’ dishes as the basis for their creation. AND the chefs are only directing, not cooking the food. They are not allowed to touch any part of their dish, they must teach and explain to the students. This is so cool. Seriously, not to get all sappy here but this is what Top Chef Masters should be all about - testing these experienced chefs on their ability to pass on their skills to help up and coming wee chef-ettes.
The chefs meet their young apprentices. All the kids seem terrified to be on camera and are painfully intimidated by this whole situation.
Each pair of students has prepared a pretty pedestrian meal - pork tenderloin, stuffed chicken, lasagna. The masters must reinvent the students’ dish and get them up to master level.
There is a truly touching shot of Chris explaining to the kids how what a pig eats affects its flavor - how in an ideal environment, you want a pig eating fallen apples, hazelnuts, and watercress. The look on these kids’ eyes when he’s describing this is priceless. I honestly got wee butterflies in my tummy. There was magic in that moment.
The chefs take their teams to
Lorena is talking a bit too philosophically (“Money will come....if you have the passion”) and Kerry is dryly going over his team’s to do list (“We will roast the bones and then do the chicken.”) and all four of their kids look bored or slightly worried.
Quote #1 of the ep, from Kerry: “I can take a lot of time to explain technique, or I can push them; and I’m hoping that they are these little dry sponges that are just going to absorb this in short order.” Let me guess: Kerry has no children. He tries to high five his guys after shopping and I swear to god he makes
Back in the kitchen, the teams have 2.5 hours to get their dishes ready. The chefs are not allowed to touch the food. Chris moves around this rule defly and demonstrates to the kids how to cut the pork tenderloin. That actual piece of meat he cut won’t be used, but he’s just shown them the right way to do it. Let it be known right here and now: I am officially in deep crush with Chris and I want him to win.
There, I said it. His way with these kids is absolutely inspiring. Everyone should be so lucky to have such a dedicated teacher. Lorena and Kerry aren't embracing this visual learning style and are mostly just barking. Kerry in particular is really being harsh ("No no no, WAY too thick!"). At least Lorena is praising and encouraging them as they move along.
Chris' protegee Emilio explains their dish to Curtis, that it's the same pork concept but that they are working to "make the dish round, like Chef taught us," and I almost want to cry. Seriously! Top Chef Heartstrings!